Pieces

Although clearly Europe, the purportedly Boston-set slasher, Pieces, does take the viewer to another place entirely.

(For 80s gore-heads, Bean Town is the setting for the fairly pedestrian slasher, Night School, filmed in the city’s Beacon Hill neighbourhood).

Like other slasher masterpieces from the era, Pieces whets appetites with a delicious prologue and a nudie puzzle-obsessed kid who wastes his mommy all in the first five minutes.

When the authorities arrive, no need for any further forensic investigation, as they just take the word of the child.

Fast forward into adulthood with the nature-nurture problem solved, and Timmy is back to his murderin’ ways, attacking coeds on a campus in a string of set pieces that are more bush than Ivy league.

Pieces then lives up to (or down to) its name depending on one’s perspective, with a couple of whiz-bang gruesome chainsaw killings, and a Red Herring in the form of a leering, cross-eyed college groundskeeper, Willard (such is the level of sedateness / quietude at this particular institute of higher learning that the school’s Dean himself, rather than an underling, is responsible for hiring the gardener and negotiating his contract!)

The real hilarity ensues when genre stalwart Christopher George (City of the Living Dead/Grizzly/Graduation Day) wanders in as law enforcement, with an oft-repeated gag about him needing a cigarette lighter that is as dead in the water as this pic’s vics. Rather than put out a notice to the study body that there are student bodies piling up, he hatches a plan to have one of his colleagues go undercover as a varsity tennis coach! (played by Linda Day, real-life missus to Mr. George).

Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to “love” about the embarrassing strokes (the cast members weren’t quite adept at racket sports). The crowd’s reaction to the matches, and women who the Williams sisters could best with just their backhands, is priceless.

Still, as some wag on Instagram put it, this is the finest Italian, Spanish, Puerto Rican production they’d ever seen! A total blast.

*** (out of 5)

The Last Shark

If you squint, it’s Quint…The Last Shark, aka, L’ultimo squalo is basically Jaws minus Chief Brody and all elements intact (even if limbs are not). In his stead, an author (of all people) and a Robert Shaw-aping Vic Morrow are tasked with taking down the killer fish.

The town of Port Harbor is gearing up for a windsurfing regatta, and the denizens are treating the spectacle as if it’s hosting the Formula 1. It’s all anyone can talk about, and even radio blabbers provide traffic-and-weather-together-type updates about the big race in between songs.

When a surfer bum becomes chum, things get glum. That’s one way to put it. However, like Jaws, there’s a stonewalling elected official who wants the big race to proceed, damn the torpedoes, if you’ll excuse the mixed nautical metaphors. The horror author tries to sound the alarm, but the politico has aspirations of state governor and insists that it continue. And he’s got a plan in place to protect the beaches with extra patrols, netting, vigilance, etc.

Hence, the race is on.

From there, things don’t go too swimmingly for the bipedals as The Last Shark’s incredibly fake version of Bruce the Shark, starts making the townsfolk his waterlogged repast.

And what a shark this is. It’s been likened to a Macy’s parade float, but with it’s silly verticality resembles one of those Bozo the Clown pop-up punching bags.

Vic Morrow as Quint-alike Hamer chews the scenery like ballplayers do tobacco. It’s a dreadful performance and he vacillates between Irish brogue and what sounds like upset stomach Hungarian (and possibly Greek too, or maybe that’s just the cable-knit sweater/po-boy cap Corsican figure he cuts).

This is unquestionably a terrible movie. However, it holds up well as compared with other horror rip-offs from Italy’s boot (Bruno Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead, for example) and horror knock-offs more broad (Abby, the cheap-o Exorcist).

And word of advice: don’t dangle steak from a winch in a helicopter. Trust.

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our Really Awful Movies Podcast episode of The Last Shark]